Documentary revisits the harrowing ordeal of 16 men who survived a plane crash in the Andes by resorting to cannibalism.
Courtesy of Zeitgeist Films
In 1972, a 45-passenger plane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team crashed during a thunderstorm in the Andes, ultimately leaving 16 survivors. Their story, complete with revelations of cannibalism, was extensively chronicled in Piers Paul Read's 1974 bestseller "Alive," but there's nothing quite like hearing from the survivors firsthand.
The documentary "Stranded: I've Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains" – a thinking person's Halloween movie – reunites many of the survivors, some of them accompanied by their children, after 35 years. The men revisit for the first time the Valley of Tears glacier where their plane crash-landed, and their words make palpable the awe and terror they experienced.
The extraordinary intimacy of the revelations owes much to the fact that the film's director, Gonzalo Arijón, was a childhood friend of the men. Arijón doesn't make the mistake of attempting to sensationalize a story that is already shocking. For 72 days the survivors held on to life by eating the flesh of friends and family who died in the crash. In interviews, some of the men, many of whom remain observant Roman Catholics, compare this act to Holy Communion.
No one is remorseful. At first you may think that their almost mystical bond with those they consumed is just a fancy form of survivors' guilt. But that's not the way it comes across. The men owe their lives to these dead, and they seem ineffably respectful of them. Can anyone who was not there truly cast stones?